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Commission for a sustainable world society

Africa and climate change at top of agenda for SWS Commission

02 March 2009

Secretary General of the Socialist International, Mr Luis Ayala,
President of the African National Congress, Mr Jacob Zuma,
Members of the SI Commission for a Sustainable World Society,
Government Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Distinguished Representatives of Different Political Parties,
Comrades and Friends,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, I take this opportunity to embrace you all as well as extend a warm welcome to you.
I am truly honoured and privileged to have a moment to speak to you ahead of your discussions on issues that are pertinent to our generation and to posterity.
This meeting takes place at a time when the world is faced with serious challenges brought about by the global financial crisis. While the extent of this crisis is still to be determined, the world is already feeling its devastating impact which is characterized by among others, a decline in the global economy and massive job losses.
What, on the surface started off as a crisis among a few lending institutions has exploded into a global credit crunch, with severe consequences for production and trade.
The wisdom of hindsight suggests that this crisis could have been avoided if all of us, especially the countries where the crisis started, had acted in time to strengthen domestic regulation and supervision of the financial system.
The reality is that the crisis is with us and our focus should be on mitigating its impact on our people and finding a sustainable and coordinated solution.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today you will be discussing issues related to sustainable development, particularly the challenges posed by climate change and global warming.
The problem of climate change and other environmental challenges that the world faces today were, to a large extent, caused by our behaviour and failure as nations to take appropriate measures to preserve our planet.
As you know, Africa is one of the regions least responsible for climate change, yet Africa is the most affected and Africa is also the least able to afford the costs of adaptation. Our continent will remain vulnerable even if, globally, emissions peak and decline in the next 10 – 15 years.
We believe that it is only once adaptation is accorded a higher priority in our deliberations, that any agreement on the strengthening of the International Climate Architecture can be considered balanced.
This is what came out very clearly when we hosted the 12th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in Johannesburg last year. Our Environment Ministers do and must continue to provide the leadership to translate public will into political will, and political will into action and implementation.
Over the last decade, we have taken important steps in the right direction. These include mainstreaming and integrating environmental concerns in other areas of work in our respective governments and developing new scientific and policy capacities. However, despite these achievements, there are also signs of a stagnating and fragmented global regime for the environment and sustainable development.
For us, the proliferation of environmental agreements, funds and entities call for greater co-ordination and significantly increased resources. It also calls for the further strengthening of Africa’s voice and strategic leadership in the debate on international environmental governance. We believe that Africa working in concert with other countries should increasingly be in the forefront of these debates, thereby ensuring that our concerns and interests inform United Nations environmental reform.
Immediate challenges, which have particular relevance to this meeting, include the improvement of coherence and co-ordination between different UN agencies and bodies; eliminating the fragmentation of implementation, scientific work and policy development; and addressing the huge resource gap that has led to discrepancies between commitments and actions.
As government, we believe that the overriding challenge is to provide our people with a better life and to eradicate the scourge of hunger and poverty. It is therefore our sincere hope that this meeting will advance society towards an efficient system of managing climate change and creating conditions for sustainable development.
We feel greatly honoured that this meeting, taking place in South Africa forms part of a programme of activities for 2009 which, I understand, includes meetings of the Commission in China and in the USA, both in Washington D.C and at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Like many others, I know that your meeting is going to demonstrate that you are also providing leadership in safeguarding the environment for future generations, and meeting the multi-faceted challenges posed by climate change.
I wish you a fruitful and enjoyable stay in our country and success in your deliberations.
Forward to Leadership, Friendship and Solidarity!
I Thank You

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